I know that my children are only 2 and 3, but discussions of their entry in to school have already started to surface between my husband and myself. He, having had an extremely terrible experience in the public school system, is insistent that I homeschool our children. I, having loved school and having thrived in a public school environment, am perfectly fine with sending my little ones off on that big, yellow bus to public school. And, strangely, I feel a little stronger about it than I would have expected from myself.
There is a lot of emotion tied up in school for me. Things that have very little to do with what I learned there, and a whole lot to do with the friendships I forged over recess and study hall. I moved quite a bit while I was growing up, and the friendships I managed to create every time I started school made each new transition bearable, albeit slightly melancholy for the friends I had to leave behind. So many of these people-- quite a few of whom I still love and count as friends today--I would never have met if I had been homeschooled.
For my husband, the opposite argument can be made. He hated school, didn't do well in his classes, and suffered from a kind of all-around bullying that I thought only existed in movies. He went to the same school for much of his public school career, in a small town that couldn't have had more than 100 students at any given time. Once he got branded (for whatever reason), he became the kid that got picked on every day. In high school, he even had a teacher add to the bullying, opening his locker so some kids could get his brand new Stetson that he'd been saving for all summer so they could cut it in half. He has true horror stories. When he finally decided to change schools and be bussed to the city for his last two years of high school, his only comment on the improvement was that people didn't care that he dressed like a "cowboy" any more than they cared about the kids with baggy jeans or the ones who looked like hippies. But, he reminds me, it is also where he was introduced to underage drinking and drugs.
Even my mother-in-law has started in on this debate, lamenting the downfall of public schools. They're so DANGEROUS now! I'd NEVER send my kids there! Gangs and sex and drugs! Oh my! She's pretty worried about the kinds of things we'll be exposing the children to if we send them to public school. I, on the other hand, have trouble trusting the opinion of someone who counts Fox News as her only source of "facts" when it comes to something like this.
For a long time, in my mind, the issue has been settled. I want my children to go to public school. I want them to get the entire school experience. I know some of it won't be pretty, but I'm willing to trust my parenting skills enough to think we can make it over most of the hurdles that will come along. Even though my husband still brings up homeschooling occasionally, this is one fight I don't think he really expects to win.
Yesterday, however, a friend of ours got me thinking about this all over again. She asked if we were planning on homeschooling our children. I told her, "Uh, well, it's still in debate. We've got a few more years to decide," and she started telling me about a program she's been researching that helps you fund field trips and science experiments for your homeschooled children. She was homeschooled, and for a very long time she's been absolutely sure she wanted to send her children to a school (although she ideally would send them to private school). She disliked her homeschool experience, partly on the basis of things similar to my fears (lack of social interaction being the biggest), but also for reasons of her own. She didn't get to experience a lot of hands-on learning because her mom couldn't afford to buy a lot of materials for them. So her homeschool experience was lackluster; she didn't have a desire to repeat that for her children. After having done a little research, however, she's changed her mind and she's ready to dive in to homeschooling.
I'm definitely not convinced that I want to homeschool my children, but this did put a bug in my ear. My husband, when we discuss the Homeschool Debate, always reminds me of the amazing things I can do with my children that a public school wouldn't be able to provide--the caring, hands-on attention I would be able to give them. And this is tempting. But it also feels a little selfish. Or maybe sending them to public school is the more selfish option, and I'm just coming up with reasons not to keep my kids at home for the next 12 years? I don't know. I do know that my older son already has a passion for other children, squealing with glee when he sees other kids his age on the playground at the park. Can I deny him the sweet savor of daily peer interaction just to protect him from possible unsavory interactions? Would the exciting hands-on activities I could provide from home be enough to fulfill his mind and win over his heart? I'm not so sure.
I know people on both sides of this debate, and I would love feedback on this. What do you love about homeschooling your children? What's nice about putting them on the bus every day? Do you feel like your homeschooled children get enough social interactions with their peers? What have been the drawbacks of public school--bad habits, peer pressure? I'd love to know. You can leave a comment, or if you have a longer message to contribute, you can email me at jhildebr at gonzaga dot edu.